True meetings and resistance against the taken for granted

A couple of Sabot staffers went to Calgary last weekend for a conference, and came back talking about what and who they had heard, including speaker Harold Gothson. In the book Childhoods; a Handbook, part of which is available as a google book, Gothson has a chapter called 'Appropriating Reggio Emilia; from Cults to Cultural Constructions'

Reflecting on being influenced by the Reggio Approach, he asks the question "What happens with ideas and narrating of experiences when they travel from one context to another?  What happens with the idea, and what happens with the receiving context?"

The narrating of experiences -the story -changes with the context. I can't really know what it was like in Calgary, but I can hear the stories they will tell me about it and form my own image. In this way I can learn from their experience. In thinking about the Reggio approach, or even old Sabot preschool, I can listen to the stories (even the ones I tell myself), and apply what I get from them to my new context. Gothson writes that he views Reggio through his Swedish eyeglasses, just as I view everything through my metaphorical eyeglasses, and so do you.
Gothson goes on to talk about looking for new points of view in order to challenge your own established ones. He talks about the benefits to educators of challenging personal perspectives by looking at other schools and other ways of doing things. He writes that Reggio educators look for disturbances, seeking out "contexts that make them uncomfortable and force them to reconstruct and develop their ideas... in the ongoing effort to find new confusing and provoking encounters to make it possible to create resistance against the taken for granted."

I'm not sure about the translation here, but the way this is worded does capture something about disequilibrium, the feeling people get before we understand something new. It does feel uncomfortable, confusing and provoking sometimes. 
We have to understand that ideas must change with the context and that the place it is to be taken to will also change. So that's why there is no Reggio Emilia 'program' or 'method' that can be implemented anywhere. 

Gothson writes "all narrations are built on interpretation, choices and interests.. and invite a complex and contradictory reality that surrounds every decision of action and thinking in general." . 

Does that mean we take what we want from our inspirations, or that we take what we need? 
Either way, it implies that we must give careful consideration when reconceptualizing an idea in a new context, resisting "superficiality and rigidity".
This year, having moved the school across the river into a new building, the preschool staff is finding out what parts of our long story still work in the new context. I really like experiences that cause me to question my habits, provide 'resistance against the taken for granted" and make me think critically about my point of view, but  the feeling of starting all over again from scratch is very unsettling. Luckily there is a group that can work together to represent this old story and create the new one.

While reflecting here, I started to think about truth. If what we know is just our version of a narrative, can there be such thing as truth? Gothson writes that there is no "Reggio Emilia", just our interpretations of it.

It turns out that there is a social constructivist theory of truth, that truth is constructed by social processes and is affected by context (according to, which I never thought about until now, but which seems about right to me. 

For me it comes down to a commitment to the value and values of children. How to make that visible in our community and culture is what brings me back to the inspiring ideas from the schools of Reggio Emilia again and again. 

Gothson has more to say about values; Read it here


  1. Anna, I love your words. Melissa

  2. Very thought provoking, thank you....

  3. Well said Anna, especially for those of us who have been doing this work for awhile. I find my need for a constant slight disequilibrium a by-product of being Reggio inspired. The research and questions become deeper as our research grows, expands, & changes with context, time and new research.
    I am so happy to be in conversation with you-even if it is via internet. Thanks for this very important post.


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